NDN Blog

More on the NPI Tools Campaign: Buy Cable

This is an extremely important fall for progressives and the New Politics Institute wants to help maximize the impact that organizations and campaigns can make through advertising and media. Our national tools campaign focuses on four critical tools that could make a huge difference in the weeks ahead.

They are “Buy Cable,” “Use Search Ads,” “Engage the Blogs,” and “Speak in Spanish.” Each of these are proven techniques to more effectively reach critical constituencies and the public at large. Progressives can easily and immediately adopt all of them right now.

The first recommendation, “Buy Cable,” is the most important because so much political money currently goes to broadcast television ads – a whopping $1.5 billion in the 2004 cycle compared to less than $80 million on cable ads. Yet, as our new cable memo makes clear, much of that money is wasted in reaching people far beyond the districts that progressive organizations and campaigns want to reach.

Cable TV ads allow you to reach much more targeted audiences, both in demographic and geographic terms – and it’s cheaper to boot. In many if not most situations, shifting significant TV ad spending from broadcast to cable is a more effective and efficient strategy.

The accompanying “Buy Cable” memo makes the argument in more detail and points to how progressives can start to do this. It’s written by NPI Senior Advisor Theo Yedinsky, who has extensive campaign experience, and NPI Founder Simon Rosenberg.

Feel free to distribute this far and wide. If you are part of a campaign or organization, use it to influence this fall’s strategy. If you are a donor, use it to make sure your money is not wasted, but used wisely. If we all do this, we can save the progressive movement millions of dollars, and make political advertising much more potent this fall.

In the coming weeks we’ll be pushing the other recommendations of the Tools Campaign. For now, let’s help move more TV ad spend to cable.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

James Crabtree in the American Prospect

NDN Senior Policy Advisor James Crabtree has an article in today's online edition of The American Prospect.  It seems that a close relationship with President Bush isn't just toxic to candidates here in the states, but also his friends across the pond.

Is that you, Congressman?

Interesting. Very Interesting. Chris Cillizza's blog over at the Post tells of a new type of "telephone townhall" campaigning technique, otherwise known as a giant conference call, being used by Republicans in the Kentucky 2nd. I've never heard of this being used as a way to talk to voters. Seems like a smart way idea, especially in rural areas. The video clip says more about how it works. 

Democracy 2.0

The sophmore edition of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. NDN is a big fan both of the journal, and its two founders, so we'd encourage you to sign up regardless. Luckily, though, issue 2 looks just as interesting as the first, and showcases a number of hip policy concerns.

First, a controversial article on China, that gives progressives a spin normally more associated with neo-conservatives. China's rise is an ideological threat, rather than a generally good thing mitigated by a few ethical and economic glitches:

The rise of China presents the West, for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, with a formidable ideological challenge to that paradigm. The "China model" powerfully combines two components: illiberal capitalism, the practice and promotion of a governance strategy where markets are free but politics are not; and illiberal sovereignty, an approach to international relations that emphasizes the inviolability of national borders in the face of international intervention.

(Interestingly, there is a small story in the FT today about German Minister Michael Glos saying something fairly similar, in particular noting that "China's aggressive attempts to secure energy supplies in developing countries constituted a "breach of international rules of behaviour." The diplomatic, ethical and ideological implications of China throwing her weight around are clearly underappreciated. The piece is a timely reminder.)

Second, there is also a plug by Barack Obama's policy head Karen Kornbluh for this month's hot social policy: the revival of social insurance systems. Kornbluh notes that "mass layoffs, globalization, rising costs of living, and lower real wages" means that "Americans no longer rely on stable careers, nor do they assume that they will earn enough to raise a family on one salary." We need "a national commitment to mitigating the new risks to the economic well-being of families." This sounds similiar to Jacob Hacker's ideas in his new Hamilton paper, and elsewhere.

All in all, interesting "big ideas" of the sort Democracy was meant to be hawking. Get yourself a copy.



Is Life Getting Better (Cont....)

A thoughtful continuation of the ongoing half-full, half-empty debate in the Economix collumn in this morning's Times. To Recap briefly. Some thinkers look at flat wages and incomes in combination with rising costs, and see Americans struggling. Not so fast, say others of more centrist or right wing bent - people's incomes now get them a far superior basket of goods, better health and the like. Here is how the Times puts it:

For the last few weeks, there has been a roiling debate, both within the Democratic Party and between Democrats and Republicans, about how to describe living standards in this country. Among Democrats, the debate is really about how to talk to voters about the economy as the party tries to reclaim control of Congress this year and the White House in 2008. One group of Democrats says that it’s time to stop pulling punches and acknowledge that, at best, life is marginally better than it was a generation ago. The other group argues that the middle class’s current problems should not obscure enormous progress made over the last few decades. President Bush and his aides agree with the progress part and go on to say that the middle class continues to do quite nicely today. Each group has its preferred numbers, which can be dizzying, but you don’t need to dig into them to figure out what’s really going on. You just need to understand snow blowers. [You have to read the article to understand why the example of snowblowers explains so much]

Of course, the latter group are right to a degree. Brink Lindsey, a libertarian guest at last friday's forum at the Hamilton Project, put the thought experiment well. If things are so awful, would you, he asked, swap today's median income, basket of goods and life chances for that in (say) 1973? Give up the iPod? Give back those couple of years of life expectancy? Few would. Nonetheless, these issues - precisely how inflation is counted in the CPI, or whether better consumer products make life better - only take us so far. As Dean Baker points out on his TAP blog, the extent of this goods bias is in question. And even then it doesn't explain why Americans are so grumpy about their economic prospects, or why they are unwilling to give the Republicans the credit they think they deserve for an economy which has grown at a fair clip since the end of the last recovery. And so it seems fair to say that the democratic critique of the Bush economy - like the one we put out last week - is not undone by these issues. People aren't content for a variety of reasons. Their incomes aren't going up, or at best they aren't going up as fast as they used to. They see other people's going up faster. They are sensitive to fast price rises in consumer goods, like gas. They feel less secure because the consequences of a job loss are ever-more severe. They feel less secure because the odds of income loss have risen substanially. And no ammount of talk of cheaper, inflation proof snowblowers seems to make people think otherwise.



And you thought Brownie was bad

As you've seen often in this space I believe the meta-political story of our time is the profound and deep failure of Republican government to deliver on its basic obligations.  We think of Iraq, the broken levees, declining wages, unprecedented institutional corruption, a failed Doha trade round, out of control spending, sanctioned torture, and no action on emerging challenges like global climate change, energy independence, health care and immigration.  

As former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough put it in a piece in the Post's Outlook section this weekend: "How exactly does one convince the teeming masses that Republicans deserve to stay in power despite botching a war, doubling the national debt, keeping company with Jack Abramoff, fumbling the response to Hurricane Katrina, expanding the government at record rates, raising cronyism to an art form, playing poker with Duke Cunningham, isolating America and repeatedly electing Tom DeLay as their House majority leader?"

In the reading the paper the past few days, I came across a series of stories whose headlines suggest, remarkably, that there may be even more to this already sad story: "Islamists’ Rise Imperils Mideast’s Order," "Major Problem at Polls Feared," "NATO Faces Growing Hurdle As Call for Troops Falls Short," "Chirac Signals Widening Divide," and "Trade Deficit 2nd Highest Ever."

But of all the stories I read these past few days about how our government is failing the American people, one stood out.  It was a front page piece in the Post on Sunday, a piece that I hope all of you will read in its entirety.  It is an excerpt from a new book detailing the early days of our occupation of Iraq.  And it is one of most damning things I've ever read about anyone or anything in politics.  Here are the first few graphs:

"After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.

The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration's gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation, which sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort."

And it gets worse from here.  Read it and weep, my friends, for our country who has been led by incompetent fools these past few years. 

Watching Google Move Beyond Business – into Politics

We all know how Google has impacted business. But in the last week there have been public signs about how the Silicon Valley innovator is also going to try and impact society and politics. Another front page story in the New York Times shed some light on the aspirations of Google.org, a new kind of for-profit philanthropy that is starting off with about $1 billion in seed money. The organization is run by Larry Brilliant, an amazing high tech character who I happen to know quite well. Larry (who was part of the World Health Organization team that eradicated smallpox) is pushing to take on huge problems like global warming, global poverty and disease.

The other story got much less play, but for politics may have even more significance. Google is forming a PAC to raise money for candidates and causes. The San Francisco Chronicle story emphasized that they have hired two prominent Republicans hiring former Republican Senators Dan Coats of Indiana and Connie Mack of Florida as outside lobbyists. But that’s mostly because Google recently has been lambasted by Republicans for, among other things, being seen as leaning too progressive or Democratic.

The good news is that Google, with all its talents and resources, is gearing up to finally play politics.

Peter Leyden

California and the New Progressive Agenda

People keep asking what the House Democrats and Pelosi will do if they get in power. There is a constant refrain that progressives don’t have a vision and an agenda about where to take the country. But that does not seem to be the case standing here in California. This last legislative session saw a wave of innovative progressive initiatives pass into law now that Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is tacking not just moderate, but progressive in many of his stances. However, the actual progressive agenda is being driven by the overwhelmingly Democratic state House and Senate. Arnold is mostly responding and going with the very popular flow.

Nowhere is this progressive agenda more clear than in energy and the environment. For those who missed it on Friday, the New York Times ran a huge front page story on California’s many innovative policy experiments to curb greenhouse gases and shift to alternative energies. Many of them are ground-breaking and could well point the way towards how the nation deals with these new 21st century challenges.

So what is the new progressive agenda? What will national progressives do if they run Congress? What will Pelosi do when in charge? Many of the elements are coming together in bluer-than-blue California, Pelosi’s home base. It’s worth watching….

Peter Leyden

Simon in the Financial Times about Al Gore and Global Warming

Check out Simon in the Financial Times today discussing Al Gore and his role in raising public awareness on global warming.

"There is no question that the conversation about global warming is finally entering the mainstream in the US and Al Gore can claim much of the credit," says Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network, a centrist group based in Washington. "It has gone beyond asingle issue of the environment to encompass foreign policy questions such as energy independence."

Republicans Trial New "Complete Fabrication" Approach to Wages Issues

The Economist this week has an exceptionally good survey on the changing global economy. The best piece of all is sadly subscription only, but deals with problems of the unequal share of globalization's benefits. The piece concentrates on the wage problem:

Most of the fears about emerging economies focus on jobs being lost to low-cost foreign competitors. But the real threat is to wages, not jobs. In the long run, trade and offshoring should have little effect on total employment in rich countries; rather, they will change its composition. So long as labour markets are flexible, job losses in manufacturing should eventually be offset by new jobs elsewhere. But trade with emerging economies can have a big impact on both average and relative wages.

There is an interesting piece in Today's Roll Call, about the new push by Democrats on economic issues. It quotes a GOP spokesperson, showing off their new economic attack line. “Wait, is the economy yet another ‘new direction’ for the Democrat leadership?” says one GOP staffer quoted in the piece. “Good luck. Gas prices are down, jobs and wages are up and security is still the top concern.” For the final time, especially for those who haven't been listening at the back, real wages have not risen. And here is the Economist to prove it:

Over long periods of time, real wages tend to track average productivity growth. But so far this decade, workers' real pay in many developed economies has increased more slowly than labour productivity. The real weekly wage of a typical American worker in the middle of the income distribution has fallen by 4% since the start of the recovery in 2001. Over the same period labour productivity has risen by 15%. Even after allowing for health and pension benefits, total compensation has risen by only 1.5% in real terms. Real wages in Germany and Japan have also been flat or falling. Thus the usual argument in favour of globalisation—that it will make most workers better off, with only a few low-skilled ones losing out—has not so far been borne out by the facts. Most workers are being squeezed.

The GOP approach to the economy this cycle looks clear. They are running a twin track strategy: (1) tax-raising accusation and (2) outright disembling on incomes and wages. But how can they get if even the Economist and the FT aren't prepared to give them a pass?

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